Thursday, October 28

What 8 superfoods originated in Latin America

Many of today’s so-called “superfoods” originated thousands of years ago in Latin America and were part of the diet of ancient cultures. Some of these foods had special use in religious ceremonies and were also prized for their potentially positive health effects on the body beyond nutrition, as functional foods.

1. Cacao

The first traces of cocoa in Mexico date back to 1900 and 1800 BC The first to cultivate the cacao tree were the Olmecs in 1500 BC. It was a gift from the gods that could only be consumed by elite people. Over time, the culture of cocoa it spread to the Mayan and Aztec populations.

Cocoa was a symbol of abundance that was used at the time of religious rituals dedicated to the deities. The Aztecs called the drink made with cocoa xocolatl, it was drunk as a tonic to give strength and awaken the sexual appetite, treat fatigue, increase the weight of the malnourished, stimulate the nervous system of the listless, exhausted or weak, among other purposes; as explained in the magazine La Ciencia y el Hombre of the Universidad Veracruzana.

Mexican nobles cooked cocoa with water and to sweeten it, they added wild honey or sweet maple juice, flavoring it with a little vanilla, and simple people added corn gruel to make it nutritious. Cocoa beans were also used as currency, a custom that lasted until years after the conquest. Cocoa is rich in antioxidants, helps improve blood flow, among other health benefits.

2. Avocado

Aguacate hass
Photo: Franklin Andrés Hernández / Pexels

The avocado is a Mexican fruit with a wonderful history, it is a survivor of evolution. It has an origin of more than 10 million years ago, since the Neogene, it should have been extinct, but it resisted and I await the arrival of humans, in the last period it was cultivated by the Mayans.

Avocado fossils suggest its presence in the Sierra de Nuevo León from very ancient times; in central Mexico from 16,000 to 8,000 BC. C., and in the Yucatan peninsula from 3400 a. According to The Conversation, the first avocado orchards in Mexico began with Olmec and Mayan groups, who chose the most delicious fruits.

The avocado’s name comes from the Nahuatl “ahuacatl”, which means testicles, due to the relationship between the male gonads and the fruit. It is loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and several important nutrients, a food that supports heart health.

3. Beans

Beans with rice
Photo: Shutterstock

The bean was cultivated in Mesoamerica 8,000 years ago and it was one of the main species that was integrated into the basic diet of Mexican indigenous cultures, details the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico; In this country there are 70 species with a great variety of sizes and colors, such as black, May flower, purple, pinto, canary, and ayocote.

Beans are a food of great nutritional value and that offers multiple health benefits, such as helping to lower blood cholesterol and prevent diabetes. Its consumption is recommended by institutions such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

4. Tomato

raw food-tomatoes
Photo: Rauf Allahverdiyev / Pexels

The tomato was used by Mexican pre-Hispanic cultures as a vital ingredient for their dishes, although there are also vestiges that it was used to pay taxes. The tomato was brought to Europe in the 16th century. As it was a new product, they did not know how to occupy it and combine it with their gastronomic culture. Italy decided to integrate it into their meals becoming a staple of your kitchen.

The tomato is a fruit recognized as a source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and lycopene.

5. Pussy

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Maca is a common ingredient in Peruvian cuisine. It is a root native to the Andean region, cultivated for at least 2000 years. In addition to its culinary uses, maca can also have several health benefits. Maca is rich in fiber, a large number of essential amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients, such as vitamin C, copper, iron, and calcium.

Some studies indicate that maca could improve libido, increase energy and performance, but the authors cautioned that more research is required.

6. Chile

Photo: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

There is evidence that chili has been part of the Mexican diet for more than 8,000 years. In that country there is a record of 64 different types of chili peppers that are consumed fresh, dehydrated, cooked or industrialized.

Chili peppers can have more vitamin C than oranges and they have a privileged mix of health protective compounds. New research presented by the American Heart Association notes that Eating chili peppers regularly is great for your heart and can help you add a few more years to your life.

7. Chia

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Chia is a seed of an ancient plant native to central and southern Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua, which stands out for its nutritional value.

Chia, along with amaranth, was an important food crop in Mexico. Chia was cultivated as early as 3500 BC. C., and during pre-Hispanic times it was offered to the Aztec gods in religious ceremonies. The word “chía” in Mayan means strength. Legend has it that the Aztecs, especially the warriors, used it as an energy drink.

Chia seeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and offer complete protein It contains the nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce, explains the Harvard School of Public Health.

8. Peanuts

Foto: Piviso/Pixabay

Peanuts are native to South America and arrived in Mexico during pre-Hispanic times. The Spanish knew peanuts in the great Tenochtitlán, they took them to Europe and Africa; which allowed its cultivation and consumption to spread throughout the world.

The “ground cocoa” helps prevent heart disease and promote health like the more expensive almonds and tree nuts. Peanuts can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to Harvard researchers.

Peanuts contain a variety of nutrients, protein, fiber, good fats, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants, flavonoids, and amino acids. All these components are beneficial for human health.

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